Benzema back at Real but may not play game

Karim Benzema leaving the courthouse in Versailles on Thursday. French police are looking into whether the France international striker played a part in an alleged bid to extort money from Lyon player Mathieu Valbuena. Benzema has been left out of tw
Karim Benzema leaving the courthouse in Versailles on Thursday. French police are looking into whether the France international striker played a part in an alleged bid to extort money from Lyon player Mathieu Valbuena. Benzema has been left out of two upcoming international friendlies.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MADRID • Real Madrid are expected to be without striker Karim Benzema for their trip to Sevilla tomorrow after he was charged in an extortion case involving a sex tape featuring fellow French international Mathieu Valbuena.

Benzema returned to Madrid on Thursday after spending Wednesday night in custody in Versailles, on the outskirts of Paris.

The 27-year-old has not featured for Real since injuring his hamstring on international duty a month ago and is unlikely to be rushed back into action after a momentous week off the field.

But the Spanish La Liga club's president Florentino Perez voiced his "full support" for Benzema who, on Thursday, trained alone, according to a Real statement.

A source in the investigation said Benzema had admitted approaching Valbuena about the sex tape "on behalf of a childhood friend" who himself had been contacted by blackmailers in possession of the tape. But Benzema's lawyer, Sylvain Cormier, said the player "has played no part in blackmail" and "has admitted nothing at all".

Benzema was charged with complicity to blackmail and conspiring to commit a criminal act, the prosecutor's office in Versailles said. The charges carry a prison sentence of at least five years.

He was also banned from meeting 31-year-old Valbuena, a midfielder for French club Lyon, where Benzema began his career.

An hour after Benzema was charged, France coach Didier Deschamps left both players out of his squad for friendly internationals against Germany and England on Nov 13 and 17 respectively.

Deschamps said Benzema was injured anyway and he was omitting Valbuena because he was not in the right "psychological" state.

Benzema has told investigators that he talked to Valbuena about the sex tape when the France squad met for training on Oct 5 ahead of friendly internationals against Armenia and Denmark. It is not clear what was said between the two.

A source said: "Karim Benzema has admitted speaking to Valbuena at the request of a childhood friend, who was approached by three blackmailers who were in possession of the sex tape. Benzema said he had agreed with his childhood friend on what he should say so that his team-mate (Valbuena) would negotiate exclusively with him."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2015, with the headline 'Benzema back at Real but may not play game'. Print Edition | Subscribe